RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Four Republicans have joined Democrats in the Virginia Senate to support a renewed effort to overturn the state constitution’s outdated ban on same-sex marriage.
The Virginia Constitution contains antiquated language that defines marriage as “only a union between one man and one woman.” The General Assembly must pass a constitutional amendment two years in a row before voters have a chance to decide whether to repeal the existing ban in a referendum.
A 25-14 vote in the state Senate sends the proposed constitutional amendment to the House of Delegates, where it is expected to fail after the Republican-led chamber already rejected an identical proposal.
Virginia voters in 2006 approved a constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage, which was struck down by a panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2014.
Despite this, and a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding same-sex marriage as a constitutional right, the language remains in Virginia’s constitution.
Concerns that the Supreme Court could overturn the landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges grew after Roe v. Wade was abandoned, and Justice Clarence Thomas signaled that the court could revisit the 2015 decision.
Last December, President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act to protect same-sex marriage rights. After a failed push last year, state Sen. Adam Ebin (D-Alexandria) revived his proposed constitutional amendment to repeal the defunct ban.
On Monday, Sen. Ebin urged lawmakers to advance the proposal and for Virginia to move “to the realities of today’s world.”
All 21 Democrats present for Monday’s vote — state Sen. Lionel Spruill (D-Chesapeake) was not in the state Senate — supported Ebin’s proposed constitutional amendment.
Republican Sens. Siobhan Dunnavant (Henrico), Tommy Narment (James City), David Suterlein (Roanoke) and Jill Vogel (Fauquier) voted with the Democrats.